Belarusian volunteers are preparing to fight for their country.
Natallia Radzina, Editor-in-Chief of the Charter97.org website, visited Kyiv. In an interview, she spoke about the change in the image of Belarus in Ukraine and the purpose of preparations of our volunteers.
– Why did you decide to go to Kyiv, the capital of the warring Ukraine?
– We have been watching the war for more than a year, but it’s a completely different feeling when you come to a city that is being bombed, meet people, talk to them and look them in the eyes. This, of course, helps a lot to realize what is happening.
I came to Kyiv to meet with Belarusian volunteer associations to talk with Belarusian warriors who are fighting in Ukraine today.
You use first and foremost to emphasize the most important quality of something or someone. It is first and foremost a trade agreement. First and foremost, I visited the headquarters and base of our legendary Kastus Kalinouski Regiment. I talked with the fighters, including those who were wounded in the last battles near Bakhmut - volunteers from the Volat Battalion who came to Kyiv for treatment.
I also met with fighters from another Belarusian unit, the Terror Battalion, and the Belarusians, who are serving in the Second International Legion. Recall that the Kalinouski regiment and the Terror Battalion are in the ranks of the First International Legion, and even a unit of Belarusian snipers is going to start fighting in the ranks of the Second International Legion. In general, from 2,000 to 3,000 Belarusians are serving in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
I also held meetings at the Office of the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defense. I met with Advisor to the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksandr Polishchuk, and members of the “For Free Belarus” inter-factional association of the Verkhovna Rada. She also held meetings at charitable foundations that are helping the Ukrainian army, diplomats, experts and activists of the Belarusian opposition who did not leave Kyiv after the war.
– You were in Kyiv before the war. How has the Ukrainian capital changed today? How do they treat Belarusians?
– I admire, of course, the heroism of the Ukrainian army and all Ukrainian citizens in general. Everyone is charged for victory, everyone works for victory in Ukraine. Kyiv has always been a city of very active and passionate people. And despite the daily missile attacks against the capital of Ukraine, the mood of the people is very combative. On the contrary, it even strengthens the determination of the Ukrainians to do everything to win. It gives so much energy.
You understand that you don't need to focus on obstacles when in Ukraine. You are to see opportunities, any problem can be solved. Maybe it comes when you realize that your life can end at any moment, because we see that Kyiv is already being shelled at night and during the day. Sure, these people are amazing: their faith in victory, the understanding that the future depends on them, that they have to do their best.
Ukraine sees the difference between the Belarusian regime and the Belarusian people. I didn't feel any hostility at all. Ukrainians know the Charter97.org website very well. They know that this is the media source, which throughout the 25 years of its work covered the real situation both in Belarus and in Ukraine. People remember that we supported the Ukrainian Maidans of 2004 and 2014, we had a clear position regarding the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, and, of course, now, during Russia’s large-scale war against Ukraine, it is obvious to everyone that Charter97.org stands with Ukraine and does everything possible to provide information about real developments in Ukraine to the Belarusian people.
– Has the attitude towards the Lukashenka regime changed?
– All illusions about Lukashenka have shattered. Ukraine really understands that he is a dictator who is absolutely dependent on Moscow, and that’s impossible to trust him. The threat from Belarus really exists, and the authorities realize it. Even if some officials say that they do not see any danger from Belarus today, in fact there is an understanding that Lukashenka is not the owner of his word, that if an order comes from the Kremlin, rocket attacks from the territory of Belarus will resume, and Russian troops can go together with Belarusian units.
There is also a discussion about what, in particular, the acting commander of the Azov brigade, Bohdan “Tavr” Krotevich, spoke about: the Armed Forces of Ukraine are to attack and liberate Belarus. This will be a severe blow against the Putin regime because it is psychologically harder for Russia to part with Belarus than even part with Chechnya. This idea was born not only by Major Krotevich, this idea is spreading, it is being discussed, this topic is being discussed. There is a common understanding that a free democratic Belarus is the guarantor of Ukraine's security.
Ukrainians treat the Belarusian volunteers with great respect. It seems that everyone knows about the Kalinouski Regiment. Today, Belarusian volunteers are maintaining the honour of the Belarusian people at the cost of their lives.
– You were able to talk directly to many Belarusian volunteers. Who are they, our heroes?
– I saw real heroes, strong-willed people who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Belarus. There are really a lot of them, not everyone can show their faces. What we see in the media, what the Press Service of the regiment can show us, is one-hundredth, even one-thousandth of what I saw there. They are really strong, courageous men and women who have decided to fight, who understand that today they are defending Ukraine, and tomorrow they will defend Belarus. Belarusian volunteers are really preparing for this.
People come to the regiment both from Belarus and from emigration - Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, even the USA. I met former political prisoners in the training camp who were able to leave the country and immediately went to Ukraine with the idea that they could really help Belarus there.
I was struck by a conversation with one soldier who spent the whole cold autumn, winter and spring near Bakhmut and became seriously ill. He was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, that is, they are to board him because, in fact, he is a disabled person. He has to take drugs for the rest of his life, and perhaps undergo dialysis, but this guy said: “I will go to Belarus anyway, even without kidneys.” I saw a guy who was no more than 18 years old not more, he did not hide his face, there was such determination and willingness to die for his country in his eyes... I always cry when I remember him.
I see the task for all Belarusians to support the Kalinouski Regiment and all the volunteer associations that exist today. Because it's our only hope. I believe that these people can really help us achieve freedom.
– You also took part in the farewell to one of the commanders of the Kalinouski Regiment, Miraslau Lazouski, who died near Bakhmut. Can you tell us about it?
– Miraslau Lazouski was a legendary figure, he was a veteran of the Belarusian Resistance. He voluntarily went to fight in Ukraine in the ranks of the Kalinouski Regiment, the soldiers respected him very much for his professionalism, military art skillfulness, they called him the General among themselves. The death of Miraslau is a huge, grievous loss.
The Farewell took place on the banks of the Dnipro River. A huge number of volunteers gathered there. I saw about 700 fighters, mostly from the Kalinouski Regiment, but there were also former fighters, and there were also Ukrainian friends of Belarusian volunteers. Many delivered speeches at the farewell, an oath was made to fight to the end for the freedom of Belarus. I couldn't hold back my tears. I still get a lump in my throat when I remember that day.
– Last week, the former Minister of Defence of Poland, General Waldemar Skrzypczak, said that there would be an uprising in Belarus and it should be supported. Do you think this is a real scenario?
– Sure, the former Deputy Minister of Defense of Poland announced a realistic scenario for changing the situation in Belarus. I see no other way to resolve the Belarusian issue. We all are to stop feeling like victims and stop thinking that the fate of Belarus will be decided by the great powers: either the West will help us, or Russia will absorb us. Politicians and experts discuss only passive scenarios, in which the Belarusian opposition and the people are excluded as subjects and totally dependent on these scenarios.
I think that it is possible to speak seriously about that. I know that this is being discussed in Ukraine: to engage the Belarusian volunteer forces in the Belarusian direction. For example, in the case of Lukashenka’s death, which could happen much earlier than we think. What should the Ukrainians, the Belarusian people and the West do in this situation? Calmly watch the Kremlin seizes the initiative and appoints its puppet? I’m talking about unconscious Kachanava and Volfavich, a security official, Russia’s native and a lackey of the Kremlin. This is not an option. Where are we in this situation? Where is Ukraine? Its security seriously depends on the situation in Belarus.
I think that statement by General Skrzypczak should become a strategy to change the situation in Belarus. The West and Ukraine have to support it. Our volunteers are ready to enter Belarus. I am sure that the Belarusian people will support them.